Give a dog a bad name

When was the last time you saw a naked dog? Sure, most dogs wear a collar of some sort – otherwise where are their owners going to affix their pet’s lead, enabling them to jerk the animal’s head away from an aromatic lamppost or other dog’s bottom?

I’m talking about harnesses, bejewelled chokers, neckerchiefs, and coats. Last week I read that there are apparently more clothing lines for dogs than disabled people. Even dog fancy dress is an actual thing – and this ignominy is not just for Christmas. It’s a good job that dogs are a dignity-free zone otherwise their owners would never be able to squeeze their ‘fur babies’ into doggy Halloween costumes or bonnets with antlers.

The latest trend in dog fashion seems to be the declaration jacket. You recall that Zara khaki parka worn by clown-consort Melania Trump when she recently visited an American concentration camp? The one with ‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ daubed on the back? Well, I saw a dog in a similar coat in Newport the other day although, rather than a breathtakingly callous statement (which in the First Lady’s case we’re supposed to believe was entirely unintended), it just said ‘ANXIOUS’.

I’m no dog behaviourist but I’m sure that even the most retarded dog demonstrates the occasional nuanced behaviour beyond eating, barking and pooing. But anxious? Who really knows? Is this the dog’s actual temperament or does the attribution say more about the person at the other end of the lead?

Firing up Google reveals that there are many branded dog coats available. They are colour-coded depending on how the dog is to be represented: our anxious doggy was in a yellow jacket (which I supposed could double for ‘COWARDLY’ or ‘INCONTINENT’); ‘FRIENDLY’ is green – I’m sure you get the idea. Each caption is created with durable embroidered text that is “there for life” and constructed from “thick polypropylene webbing that is strong enough to pull a car” – presumably the hound that wears this coat is ‘HENCH’. Other available dog jackets include ‘CAUTION’, ‘DO NOT FEED’ and ‘BLIND DOG’, which I sincerely hope is a description, not an instruction.

Taking this idea a step further, if you were to have a garment displaying your temperament or other descriptor, what would it say? I can think of several people who might benefit from ‘DO NOT FEED’ and, having read Matthew Chatfield’s last column about Islanders’ propensity to complain, it would seem that an awful lot of locals could be branded ‘MISERABLE WHINING TIGHTWAD’. Perhaps someone you know in Seaview is ‘ENTITLED’ or, if they are from Wroxall, maybe ‘INSULAR’ or ‘WEBBED’. I can picture a range of emblazoned tee shirts: proud Caulkheads who go back generations can be ‘INDIGENOUS’. There are plenty of residents who are ‘LOCALLY FAMOUS’. The members of the East Cowes Massive probably describe themselves as ‘PENG’ (look it up, granddad), and there are many on the electoral roll who are ‘CONFUSED’ or ‘BIGOTED’.

And what would my jacket say?

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 29 June 2018.

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